Eiliff - Girlrls! 1972 Germany

Eiliff can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. There's a certain sound I love about Krautrock, and in Eiliff I hear everything I could possibly want. Chunky, riffy Hammond Organ; fuzzed out Rhodes; loud electric acid guitar; jazzy rhythms; vocals that are bonkers; tripped out saxophone; fuzzy bass; alien atmosphere. Their debut is even better and yet I couldn't possibly rate this second album any less than a Masterpiece.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 SPM / World Wide Music
LP: 2015 Long Hair

I first discovered this album via the original LP sometime in the early 90s. After obtaining the CD upon release, I sold the LP. Today, I would keep it, though at the time I was still in heavy acquisition mode, and needed all the funds I could get (I know many of my old compadres can relate to me here!). It should also be mentioned that the LP was hardly in mint condition, but definitely a VG used copy.

So what about the cover anyway? The two aging hookers (the Eiliff guys in drag it would appear) are certainly not appealing, though I do like the contemporary early 70s German apartment - and the back cover features our gals/dudes walking down a peaceful leafy neighborhood, which is different than most covers of the era. I'm sure there's an interesting story behind the cover concept, but we don't know what it is. As Garden of Delights notes in their liners inside of Close Encounter With Their Third One: "One had really wished for a bit more care and attention" (regarding the SPM reissues), while also noting the omission of a rare single.

2016 update: I now own the Long Hair LP reissue that came along 3 years after I first wrote this. I haven't heard it yet, though one friend warns me it wasn't the best mastering. There are two bonus tracks and unique liner notes to consider as well. Like many of the Long Hair LP reissues, the cover is a bit too "blown up". Second Battle struggled with this too.

Buffalo - Only Want You for Your Body. 1974 Australia

I really think my RYM friend Tymeshifter nails this one with referring to Buffalo's third album as being influenced by none other than Terrible Ted Nugent. They've moved on from the Sabbath inspired Volcanic Rock album and upped the pace, while maintaining a certain lascivious standard as on 'I'm a Skirt Lifter, Not a Shirt Raiser' and 'Kings Cross Ladies'. Great guitar leads that would make our Republican *buffalo* hunter proud (hey, wait a minute...). Seriously, every stoner band worth its bong has tried to emulate Dave Tice's voice. Do not even claim to be a fan of said scene without at least paying homage to the originator. And the track 'What's Going On' predates British Steel era Judas Priest by 6 years.

Sadly, Buffalo would slide way downhill from here. Boogie rock was the all the rage Downunda, and Buffalo succumbed. Gotta make a livin', I can understand that.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Aztec

Nu - Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy. 1978 Spain

Jose Carlos Molinas is the charismatic leader of Ñu and he employs a unique dramatic vocal style and also plays a mean flute. Heavy guitar (bordering the early 80s heavy metal style) and violin round out the major components of their sound. Ñu are generally compared to Jethro Tull, but I don’t hear it myself. As we know, any time aggressive rock is mixed with flute, you’ll get that reference. In some places Ñu is like a proto Deus Ex Machina, especially when you compare Molinas' histrionic singing with Alberto Piras' style. The last two tracks 'El Juglar' and 'Paraiso de Flautas' are extended complex compositions with copious flute and violin.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Chapa Discos
CD: 1992 King (Japan)

Pentwater - Out of the Abyss. 1973-1976 USA (archival)

Out of the Abyss is off-the-rails hyper complex mid 1970's US progressive rock. If you like non stop complexity similar to Yezda Urfa and Mirthrandir, then this album is for you. It certainly is for me! Get ready for a brain-load.

Without a doubt, Pentwater's release remains my favorite of the 1970s archival releases. It's truly a shame that this band never had a chance to properly record an album until they were past their prime, managing to get one album out in 1978 (which I'll feature soon). They did reform recently, and have proven once again what a talented bunch they are.

As with the Neuschwanstein that was recently posted, I also managed to get a more formal review of this album out for I/E back in 1993. The below is that review, though updated and cleaned up a bit:

About a year ago I was talking to Greg Walker, head of Syn-Phonic, and asked "What's your next project?". He replied "Pentwater". "PENTWATER!" I cried. "What's so progressive about Pentwater?" I already knew of their sole 1978 album, and while good, it wasn't great. Greg quickly responded "No, not their album but some awesome unreleased stuff !" Well, the CD is out, and "Out of the Abyss" proves Mr. Walker was right. In a big way. Pentwater (who hail from the Chicago area) are but another example of how awesome the underground progressive scene was in America. It's really a shame that the major labels were (and still are) too focused on pop radio airplay potential to recognize where the true talent lies. But hey, all progressive rock is pompous, pretentious, corporate-fed, getting-away-from-rock-n-roll's-original-intentions mumbo jumbo right? It's true, read your Rolling Stone Record Guide...

Pentwater's music is quite similar to other superb American bands like Cathedral, Easter Island, and Mirthrandir. As with the aforementioned bands, Pentwater play an extremely complex and intricate music that embodies the best parts of the English masters like Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, and King Crimson yet in no way plagiarizes their music. The 8-minute 'EM 54' that opens this CD demonstrates just how involved a work this is - a constant barrage of sounds, ideas, and instruments are all tossed and turned to deliver an overwhelming, yet always exciting, piece. The first 2 minutes must of taken a month to write and record alone! Aside from traditional rock instrumentation, this highly talented 6-piece play flute, harpsichord, Mellotron (YEAH!), Mini-Moog, oboe, Theremin, violin, and assorted percussion ranging from anvils (?!) to tubular bells. Pentwater began in 1970 and lasted until 1978 (the year of their LP). The material for this CD was taken from 1973-76. During their existence they recorded 54 songs from which, according to Mr. Walker, future projects will come about.* Good deal.

* Well, Greg, it's been 20 years now Bud. Don't hurry. No rush. :-)  (Greg is a good friend. I have to rib him....)

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Syn-Phonic

Hoelderlin - Clowns & Clouds. 1976 Germany

Clowns and Clouds, Hoelderlin's third album, is a diverse work from this classic 70s German symphonic progressive rock band. No doubt Genesis is a major influence here, especially on the 'Clowns' side (tracks 1 to 3). 'Madhouse' could easily have been lifted from Genesis' Trick of the Tail, but with the addition of viola and squealing sax, which gives it an entirely unique sound. 'Your Eyes' is interesting to me, because it sounds like something you'd hear on a late 70s / early 80s Alan Parsons Project album, though the instrumental sections are much more progressive rock oriented. The 'Clouds' side is considerably more unique and is what makes this album special. Here, Hoelderlin offer up a more laid back and cosmic rock music. Violin, flute, sax, Rhodes, synthesizers, ac+el. guitar and a steady rhythm section make for a serene and beautiful experience. Difficult to find comparisons for this side of their music, but perhaps the instrumental sections of Novalis' second album and Dawn-era Eloy can provide some context.

Personal collection
LP: 1976 Spiegelei
CD: 1994 WMMS / Music is Intelligence

Single sleeve cover with a cool water painting.

Neuschwanstein – Battlement. 1979 Germany

The below is a review that I originally wrote for I/E magazine in 1993. Remember them? I've altered it somewhat to reflect new information, and perhaps clean it up a bit. I can't remember if this one got published or not - but the magazine was always very kind to me.

There seems to be some debate as to whether or not Neuschwanstein is similar to Genesis. I think they are, and it's not entirely a coincidence, given the many other bands in late 70s/early 80s Germany who attempted a Genesis-like sound (Ivory, Sirius, ML Bongers, Zarathustra (1982)). But by no means are they plagiarist. In fact, Battlement actually expands on the classic sound, though there's still no mistaking who provided the influence. The opening two tracks 'Loafer Jack' and 'Ice with Dwale' are straight-on Selling England by the Pound style and reminds me quite a bit of another excellent Genesis styled band: The Austrian group Kyrie Eleison. 'Intruders and the Punishment', 'Beyond the Bugle', and 'Battlement' follow and its here where we separate the men from the boys. An overabundance of time changes, guitar and synthesizer soloing, phased voices, and all sorts of unexpected twists and turns distances this release from the wannabees. The CD reissue comes with the ubiquitous bonus track. According to the bio, 'Midsummer Day' was omitted from the original LP due to its commercial nature. A strange statement considering how progressive it really is. So in conclusion, if classic Genesis is to your liking then you will love this. If not, then you may still like it. This one comes highly recommended.

Personal collection
LP: 1979 Racket
CD: 1992 Musea (France)

This is one of those albums I first learned about via the Eurock catalogs of the late 1980s. Eurock was a goldmine of information back then as well as the only place you could buy something like this. I bought quite a few LPs from Archie in the 1980s, with the limited funds I possessed. As for the CD, Musea sent me the liner notes script and asked that I proofread it, asking that I not be "too American" in my delivery. They didn't ask me again, so I think I failed at being "English" LOL. They were nice enough to give me credit in the liner notes anyway.

Analogy - s/t. 1972 Germany

I imagine most of you are familiar with the musical contents of this album, as it's been on the market steadily for over 20 years. I know many who don't like it mainly due to Jutta's powerful, but unsettling voice. She is indeed the consummate "acquired taste". Cynics will say that's tantamount to saying it's terrible, but the listener just accepts it. I disagree, as I think it adds color to the music. Overall I feel the music captures the essence of the early 70s heavy progressive rock era very well.

I consider Analogy as one of the core albums of the post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals category.

Personal collection
LP: 2000 Akarma (Italy)
CD: 2012 Belle Antique (Japan)

This is one rare case where the Akarma LP reissue is the best physical product available. Akarma released the LP as a gatefold, and inside one of the panels of the LP is a full history, while the other panel has a photo of the full frontal naked Jutta standing in front of the band. Incidentally, this photo was first introduced with the 1990 Vinyl Magic CD (which was my introduction to the album, and I've kept it all these years until now). Back to the Akarma LP - it also contains a 45 picture sleeve single (and apparently a rare place to see Ms. Nienhaus clothed).  Note that the front cover has "Analogy" in a blue strip down the front. Apparently when assembling the cover in original form, this strip was added later and made a part of the cover. So Akarma took the idea one step further and turned it into an obi like strip, so you can now see the full photo of the original cover underneath (good idea!).

With all of this as a backdrop, I was most curious how the mini-LP would turn out, since the Japanese are meticulous with the details of the original LP - an original LP that costs a fortune (a recent copy just sold on ebay for $8,000. EIGHT THOUSAND!), and as such I've never actually seen one. What's interesting is the original is a single sleeve, but there is a poster. Not what I thought though! It's a brown poster cover of the drawing of a foot, just like on the original back cover (see below). This CD also has two unreleased bonus tracks: A live piece and one short studio track. And it also includes the two tracks from the 45 mentioned above.

So what's the story behind this album cover? Leave it to the excellent It's Psychedelic Baby blog to flesh out (haha) the details. Band member Martin Thurn tells us: "Well, anyone following our career might have noticed that the single had a cover similar to the one featured on our LP. Indeed, the photo session took place shortly before the release of the 45'' when we were already "painted" but still clothed. Subsequent photos with us in the nude were made the same day but not used - for moral purposes in Italy in 1971 -, but when the LP was due to be released, the producer decided to be outrageous and use those nudes. However, since Mauro was still there during the photo sessions, he had to be taken out. Given the time (no digital editing), a blue strip was used to conceal him. Again, the cover was against our wish since our keyboarder Nicola was- and still is - a very good painter and had produced a lovely painting somehow similar to the first ELP-album. Management decided against it but had problems with Italian record shops unwilling to put "pornography" into the shop windows. So, a poster (the famous foot) was used to cover the insider cover. It's interesting that in 2010, our Italian label AMS/BTF re-issued our LP on vinyl with the same poster wrapping."

Augusto Croce of the excellent Italian Prog website offers a similar but more concise explanation: "It had a delicate single cover made of thin cardboard, and some copies were wrapped in a giant poster with a foot (pictured also on the back cover, this was in fact an ashtray!), folded in six parts, to hide the naked bodies. The original picture used for the LP had the six members of Yoice, but at the time of its release Mauro Rattaggi has left the group, so he was hidden under a blue stripe printed on the cover. The Akarma reissue has a retouched picture of the five Analogy members without the blue stripe which has been added to the record like the Japanese albums' obi's." 

I recently purchased the Japanese mini-LP, which has the perfect cover for such a thing. :-D

Pre - s/t. 1973 USA (archival)

The album starts off in a dubious manner with a soft acoustic instrumental followed by a spurned love ballad, that's rather annoying. Not exactly orthodox opening moves from the progressive rock handbook. But things get very interesting quickly with 'Water Meeting' and it becomes very clear why we're listening to this album in the first place. It never lets up from there. It's also very clear just exactly who is the influence behind the band. The simple 3 letters of Pre matches their idols. It is the music of classic Yes especially The Yes Album and Fragile. But a little more compact and urgent, common traits of a restless American society. What's most extraordinary about the music of Pre is the recording date of 1973. The American landscape is littered with bands that copied the almighty Yes, but most of them surfaced in 1975 or later. Pre was clearly ahead of the pack. For the first half of the 1970's, perhaps only Polyphony could be considered more "progressive" from the States. All the trademarks are here: Heavy organ, loud woody bass, great guitar leads, complex rhythms, passionate vocals. Best tracks are, not surprisingly, the longest: 'Ascetic Eros' and 'Ballet for a Blind Man'.

What's also great about Pre's album is the quality of the recording. It sounds like it was recorded in a major label studio with a large budget. This is not the typical low budget, 3rd generation drop-out quality we've come to expect.

It was 20 years between the time of this recording and its first release. And that was 20 years ago.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 ZNR

Pre was an extraordinary discovery from ZNR. Since they were based in Kentucky, they had already been responsible for the reissue of The Bluegrass State's most famous progressive rock group: Easter Island. Through that connection, ZNR was hooked up to a band that had a fully realized album in the can - one that had remained unreleased for near 20 years. A group with the simple name of Pre. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Pre's sole album is the single greatest American progressive rock archival find from the first part of the 1970s (remember that other excellent archival finds such as Pentwater and Yezda Urfa were from the latter half).

The CD today is pretty much extinct, but most of my running set bought one immediately upon release. It's been a good 15 years since I last heard it, and it was peacefully resting deep in the collection. After hearing it again recently, the album still satisfies on so many levels.

The cover you see above is actually a two piece kit. The gold border and "Pre" lettering is actually a thin plastic film that is inserted into the jewel case and provides a frame around the cover art. An interesting idea, and practical - if you break the jewel case, the film can be transported to another one

Mythos - Quasar. 1980 Germany

Mythos' first two releases (s/t, Dreamlab) are classics in the Krautrock/electronic rock genre, but the next two albums were relatively mundane straight ahead hard rockers. So I never bothered to check out their two 1980s releases on Sky, as I didn't think they'd amount to much (and, truth be told, Grand Prix didn't amount to much).  However it turns out Quasar is definitely a creative effort, with quirky electronics and fast paced mechanical (and some real) drums. Stefan Kaske still sings in his ridiculous out of tune low voice, but is sporadic and fortunately buried in the mix. Some really great synthesizer work here, plus it's nice to see Kaske not abandon the flute, and he puts the instrument through many effects to achieve a cool sound. Innovative effort, unlike any other album really. Like a New Wave / Berlin School / Krautrock album. I personally think it's their best album after Dreamlab.

Included as a bonus on the CD is one 10 minute collage of TV jingles and other such advertising music, that has been processed utilizing modern equipment and heavy dance beats. Not a good choice, as it belies the excellence and unique creativity of the Quasar album itself.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Sireena

After many years of holding back, I finally bought the LP of Quasar, and was pleasantly surprised how good it was. Shortly thereafter I discovered a CD was in the works. Sireena does their usual fine job, housing the CD in a sturdy digi-pak while providing liner notes and photos. These liners from band leader Stephan Kaske are quite telling. He's a techie geek! Most of the discussion revolve around the equipment he purchased, discussed in nauseating detail, along with his glee that he didn't have to work with annoying band mates anymore. Haha, spoken like a true cube dweller. He apparently missed his calling as an engineer!

Niemen - Ode to Venus. 1973 Poland

Ode to Venus is in effect the SBB 0 (zero) album, predating that great band while providing the instrumental tour de force behind legendary Polish singer Niemen. Skrzek's trademark fuzz bass blasts away, contested only by Apostolis' shredding on guitar. Meanwhile Niemen puts in his usual impassioned bluesy vocal performance. His vocals are emotionally charged throughout, and can only be considered an addition to the great music behind him. Perhaps English isn't the best choice here as I'm sure Niemen singing in his native Polish would have been even more powerful, but we'll take what we can get. Generally Eastern European bands during Communist rule had to tone down the rhetoric, and let the music do the talking. But Niemen was given special privilege, and he took full advantage. This is an essential work.

Personal collection
CD: 2003 CityStudio Media Production / Green Tree (Germany)

CMP was a legit label in the early part of the 2000 decade who had licensed most of the Bellaphon catalog as well as many titles from Sony (like this one). But they're old school late 80s / early 90s styled bare bones reissues, with nothing more than lineup info and lyrics. This CD remains the only legit one on the market.

Zoldar & Clark - The Ghost of Way. 1977 USA

Classic Yes plays a strong role in the influence of this young band.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Oxford Circus (as The Ghost of Way)

Dellwood is yet another of the infamous "tax dodge" / "tax scam" labels of the late 70s. A convenient loophole in the tax code that let unsavory businessmen write off unlimited losses against profits to save from paying Uncle Sam more than was truly owed (the IRS closed this loophole pretty quickly). All of these so-called music labels were setup to create a loss on the general ledger. Of course, all of these labels should have taken more losses, as they pretty much stole the music given them (via bogus advertisements in music papers stating they were legitimate enterprises). Almost all bands who unwittingly participated in this scam had no inkling their material was released until many years later.

So it's with this background that the CD on Oxford Circus (the only legitimate reissue and titled The Ghost of Way on the CD itself) contains many different tracks from the original Dellwood LP. Unfortunately there's no liner notes to explain why that is the case. As well, from all the online info I can gather, there isn't a definitive guide as to what is what here. Cannata himself is behind the reissue, and it appears that in his mind, the Zoldar & Clark brand name is geared towards the band's more progressive mindset, whereas Jasper Wrath and Arden House represent other aspects of their overall sound. Some of these song titles I don't recognize from anywhere - while others were originally on albums from Jasper Wrath and Arden House.

In any case, this CD is not a reissue of the original LP. But well worth owning in its own right!

Mantra - s/t. 1979 Spain (archival)

The CD itself says that Mantra sounds like a combo of Azahar, Iman Califato Independiente and Cai. Hard to argue with that and you could throw in other southern Spanish luminaries like Triana, Medina Azahara and Mezquita if you were so inclined. High energy Flamenco styled rock, with symphonic progressive elements (constantly shifting time signatures, synthesizers, heavy guitars...), is what you can expect here. A musically fantastic album.

So it's pretty much the great archival find of 2012 right? Well, I'd be a bit more enthusiastic if the sound quality matched the musical output. Unfortunately these really are demos, and the dull, thin and muddy bass/drums somewhat ruin a potential masterpiece. The album sounds like it's from a 3rd generation cassette tape. Judging by the copious liner notes (in Spanish), and unique photos, this is no shoddy cash-in effort - the fact remains, this is the best music copy available. Arabiand Rock is to be commended for bringing to light a long lost style of Spanish rock music to the world. An album very much worth checking out for fans of Rock Andaluz.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Arabiand Rock

Anders Helmerson - End of Illusion. 1982 Sweden

Classically trained pianist Helmerson put his talents to good use on his sole output End of Illusion. Apparently he felt this might be his only chance to record an album, so what the heck, let's go fer-it! The album goes full throttle - all the time. Helmerson handles the keyboard toy store, while assembling various guests on guitars, bass, drums, violin, and even tamboura. The album has an electronic rock flow about it, similar maybe to You's Electric Day. However the great shadow of Wakeman's classic The Six Wives of Henry VIII looms everywhere.  Helmerson's keyboards dominate the proceedings, and the lightning fast rhythm section exhausts itself trying to keep up. There's not much in the way of composition development, but rather sketches of songs are brought forth along with accompanying jams to fill the time. Despite this flaw, End of Illusion is a very satisfying release especially for fans of 70's era keyboard tones. No doubt Helmerson could be seen as an influence on some of the early 1990s projects like fellow countryman Par Lindh, Spain's Altair and even our very own Fort Worth based Covenant (of Nature's Divine Reflection fame).

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Musea (France)

Buffalo - Volcanic Rock. 1973 Australia

Buffalo's second album Volcanic Rock takes out the boogie rock and blues of the first album Dead Forever and leaves a damn good heavy rock album in its wake. I'd have to say it's one of the finest in the "slow burn" style, perhaps what could be considered Proto-Stoner. The album slowly turns over, making sure the marinate penetrates the meat. Pulverizing rhythms and omnipresent acid blues guitar solos define this mature hard rock work. And then we come to part 2 of the monumental final track, subtitled 'Shylock', a song which has to be considered amongst the all time great riffs in rock history. One has to think that Black Sabbath may have known this record (especially considering they toured with them in Australia during this period), as 3 years later they themselves released the monumental 'Symptoms of the Universe', which is remarkably similar. Absolutely essential 70s hard rock album, and Buffalo's best IMO.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Aztec

Like all Aztec CD's, it's a beautiful job with their usual tri-fold digi-pak loaded with goodies. They've included two live tracks, both of which could be considered their signature songs: 'Sunrise' and 'Shylock'.

Lady Lake - No Pictures. 1977; 1997 Netherlands

Lady Lake, from The Netherlands, present a pastoral, melodic, yet complex progressive rock album. Acoustic guitar is the backbone to their sound, and recalls early Genesis around Selling England By The Pound. This ostensible light background is offset by plenty of psychedelic guitar sequences, which are quite striking in this setting. Moog and Fender Rhodes play a major role as well. Vocals are fortunately sparse and ultimately unnecessary. The music never sits still too long, always on the move, while surprisingly being able to maintain its melodic core. My vote for best track would be 'Fading Trees' though 'Magic Twanger' is a close second. Mirage era Camel is probably the most obvious influence overall. More obscure references would include Hoelderlin (Clowns and Clouds), M.L. Bongers Project, and Ivory.

As mentioned below, the CD also contains newly recorded material from 1997 that was originally composed from 1979-1982. Not surprisingly, the music has a similar compositional quality to the original No Pictures album. Of course, the guitar here is more "90s pig squeal" and less "70s psychedelic" which is a pity. The aural landscape is more broad brush, with less finely pointed detail. But still a fine effort, and shows the band hasn't lost touch with their ambitious progressive background. Camel clearly remains their main influence on these tracks. From here, they were to continue and actually improve on their next proper release Supercleandreammachine (2005).

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Musiphyle / Musea (France)

The CD (the second cover photo) is outstanding. It features wonderful sound, a complete history of the band with unique photos and insights. Perhaps even better, the CD contains a completely new album's worth of material recorded in 1997, and could easily be considered two albums on one CD. Musiphyle is a sub-label of none other than Musea. Not sure why the different designation, though it may have something to do with the new album being included with the reissue.

Buffalo - Dead Forever. 1972 Australia

Dead Forever isn't as consistent as their next two releases, but still contains some ferocious heavy blues rock. John Baxter's tone is almost unreal at times.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 Aztec

The  CD features 2 full 45 singles, plus another single from the pre-Buffalo band Head. Not to mention a full booklet loaded with photos and a complete written history through the release of this album.

Skywhale - The World at Mind's End. 1977 England

Skywhale's sole album is one of the rare non-Canterbury UK fusion albums that sound more in line with what was happening over the Chan...